August 31: Aidan, 651, and Cuthbert, 687, Bishops of Lindisfarne

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration


The Gospel first came to the northern English in 627, when King Edwin of Northumbria was converted by missionaries from Canterbury. Edwin’s death in battle in 632 was followed by a severe pagan reaction. A year later, Edwin’s exiled nephew Oswald gained the kingdom, and proceeded at once to restore the Christian mission.

During his exile, Oswald had lived at Columba’s monastery of Iona, where he had been converted and baptized. Hence he sent to Iona, rather than to Canterbury, for missionaries. The head of the new mission was a gentle monk named Aidan, who centered his work on Lindisfarne, an island off the northeast coast of England. Aidan and his companions restored Christianity in Northumbria and extended the mission through the midlands as far south as London.

Aidan died at Bamborough, on August 31, 651. Bede said of him: “He neither sought nor loved anything of this world, but delighted in distributing immediately to the poor whatever was given him by kings or rich men of the world. He traversed both town and country on foot, never on horseback, unless compelled by some urgent necessity. Wherever in his way he saw any, either rich or poor, he invited them, if pagans, to embrace the mystery of the faith; or if they were believers, to strengthen them in the faith and stir them up by words and actions to alms and good works.”

Cuthbert was the most popular saint of the pre-Conquest Anglo- Saxon Church. He was born about 625. In response to a vision of the death of Aidan of Lindisfarne, Cuthbert entered religious life and was formed in the austere traditions of Celtic monasticism. He was Prior of Melrose Abbey from 651-664 and was then Prior of Lindisfarne. Made Bishop of Hexham in 684, Cuthbert continued to live in Lindisfarne. He died at his hermitage on March 20, 687.

Cuthbert accepted the decisions of the Synod of Whitby in 663 that brought the usages of the English Church in line with Roman practice. He was, therefore, a “healer of the breach” that threatened to divide the church into Celtic and Roman factions.

Collect of the Day

Everliving God, you called your servants Aidan and Cuthbert to proclaim the Gospel in northern England and gave them loving hearts and gentle spirits: Grant us grace to live as they did, in simplicity, humility and love for the poor; through Jesus Christ, who came among us as one who serves, and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Isaiah 55:6–12

Romans 12:6–13

John 10:25b–30

Psalm 104: 32–35

Preface of Apostles

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

7 thoughts on “August 31: Aidan, 651, and Cuthbert, 687, Bishops of Lindisfarne

  1. I am someone who has been greatly inspired by the Celtic saints, and who has been on a personal pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and other Celtic Monastic sites in the Uk and Ireland. It is moving to me to see us embrace this part of our Christian heritage. I must admit some uneasiness, though, with the statement, “…that threatened to divide the church into Celtic and Roman factions.” From a historic perspective, this is a bit overdramatic for me, as is so often the case when the Synod of Whitby of mentioned. 6 years before the Synod, the churches of southern Ireland had already abandonned the traditional Celtic calendar and adopted the Roman one; rather than threatening to divide the church, the Celtic church had already substantially moved towards a position of uniformity with the Continental Church. The Synod of Whitby was a local decision that affected the Kingdom of Northumbria and Northumbria only – not the entire ‘Celtic Church’ – and the historic move was towards rapproachment.

    Rather than speakig of a threat of division – which perpetuates romantic images associated with Whitby – I think it would be more historically accurate to simply say that his humility permitted him to accept the decision, thereby strengthening the unity and peace of the Church.

  2. Collect: This collect prays well.

    Hebrew Reading: This is Canticle 10 in the Book of Common Prayer 1979. Should it be noted as such? In other places (see Annunciation of Mary) when a Canticle is suggested for a reading it is noted.

    Psalm: 4 verses only. It is just too short for these monks of Lindisfarne. They lived and breathed these Psalms every day. Surely we can give up a few more verses for their blessed memory. 🙂

  3. In the caption to the Propers, the words “and Cuthbert” should be in square brackets (Aidan is already in the Calendar).

    It would be good to have some reference to the year of Aidan’s birth, if known, or some such statement as ” He was born about 600 AD”

    In line 7 of the second paragraph, substitute a capital M for the lower case “m” in “midlands”. (It is the recognized style in the UK for such an area).

  4. These are two major Caltic saints. The question is, should that be celebrated together, or should their traditionAL FEAST DAYS BE RETAINED? I can see both sides of the question, but can’t decide.

  5. I personally believe that, once set, Saints days should not be changed for poetry or convenience. Members of our congregations have chosen these saints names for themselves or their children, and identify a specific day with that saint, as has the sommunion of saints that has gone before. As one whose name is Thomas, and who was born on Dec 21 and named after St. Thomas, I am thankful that the Anglican Communon churches are the only catholic churhces that have not changed this date in recent years.

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